The Art of Social Healing Through Sculpture and Public Art

In 2011, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel and S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal held a symposium in Charleston to mark the 50th anniversary of the Briggs v. Elliott ruling. This ruling led to the creation of a committee that raised about $125,000 to commission a statue to honor U.S. District Judge J. Waties Waring; the man whose anti-segregation rulings made him a pariah in his hometown, but set the table for the Civil Rights Movement.

In “‘A liberating force,’ Waring returns to Charleston” Post and Courier journalist Robert Behre writes that a dozen sculptors sought to create the bronze likeness of Waring, and Rick Weaver, a sculptor from Charlottesville, Va., won the commission. Mr. Weaver was kind enough to take the time to answer questions about his work and to describe the process of creating this important sculpture. Mr. Weaver will join artist Jonathan Green and Dr. Jeb Hallett on March 10 for a panel discussion on The Art of Social Healing Through Sculpture and Public Art at the Charleston Federal Courthouse on Broad Street.

Judge Waites Waring sculpture

Final version of the Judge Waties Waring sculpture

How did you originally get interested and trained in sculpture?

I actually received my training not in sculpture, but in drawing and painting in New York, and then received my graduate degree in painting at UNC-Greensboro.  Whether you are working in charcoal, paint, clay, or any other medium, the underlying principles in art do not vary.  So when I became more interested in sculpture, I was able to essentially teach myself the procedure. I gradually moved my focus to sculpture in the last 10 years because the ideas I wanted to express seemed to have ultimately more to do with creating a shape in space, and depended less on creating an illusion on a 2 dimensional surface.

Describe the process of how you got to know Waties Waring in order to design your statue of him?

I first read the biography “A Passion for Justice” to get a feel for the man and his accomplishments.  It was also very helpful to speak with members of the sculpture committee, who had a familiarity with his judicial and social history in Charleston. Ultimately, I feel I can only really know myself – I never feel that I can truly understand another person in any comprehensive way, and I therefore never feel capable of “capturing” someone else in a sculpture. What I do is try to identify some vital aspect of someone’s character that I also recognize in myself, and then try to make the sculpture about that emotion or idea. With Judge Waring, I identified very closely with the idea that he was embattled, and pressured to do things he knew were wrong. Yet he persevered in his own beliefs of what was right and was true to his nature, despite the condemnation of his peers. (Not that I equate his courage with anything I possess, but I think there is some modest echo of what he displayed in all of us). Most good sculptures ultimately rise above the individual depicted, his or her gender, race, and personal history, and touch on themes that are universal and felt by all humanity. To what degree I was successful in this attempt is for others to judge, but that was my goal with the Judge Waring sculpture.

Just how does one make a statue of this magnitude? Briefly describe the manufacturing process.

On the manufacturing end, I will say that very early on, for the reasons given above, it was clear the statue should be in a standing position, to show Judge Waring’s resolute physical stance as a powerful metaphor for the intellectual stance he took in his judicial decisions. I worked on a life-size scale in my studio, beginning with a foam and aluminum armature, and progressing to a wax modeling of the actual figure.  I have included images which may illustrate the process better than my words. This final sculpture was then put in the capable hands of Carolina Bronze Foundry who completed all casting processes necessary to convert my wax sculpture into the final bronze.

Rick Weaver's sculpture of Judge Waites Waring

Beginning stage of the Judge Waites Waring sculpture

Did this project in any way impact your own personal feelings about the Civil Rights Movement and the sacrifice of champions like Judge Waring?

My knowledge of American History, let alone the Civil Rights Movement, is not what it should be.  So I am always very thankful for the excuse to research historical figures to fill in the gaps of my early education. I always feel that if my initial schooling had centered on integrating academic subjects with art I would have retained a lot more information. In reading about Civil Rights heroes like Judge Waring, John Chavis, or Maggie Walker, I am struck by their relentless courage in the face of opposition. The example of fortitude in mere mortals, however elevated by history, makes that kind of courage more accessible to me in some way that I may not have felt if I had not read their histories.

Related articles:

A liberating force,’ Waring returns to Charleston by Robert Behre, Post and Courier

Judge J. Waties Waring: Charleston’s Insider Agitator by Robert Rosen, Post and Courier

Judge Remembered For Landmark Role He Played In Desegregating Schools by Bruce Smith, Huffington Post

Rick Weaver received his formal training in New York at the National Academy of Design, the New York Academy, and the Art Students League. He earned his Master of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, where he was influenced by the sculptor Billy Lee.

Jonathan Green’s painting “Breath of Freedom,” depicts  a crowd of people outside the Charleston federal courthouse listening to the trial Briggs vs. Elliot. He donated a copy of this painting to every public high school in the Charleston County school district. Green’s painting was presented at the Hollings Judicial Center Garden on April 11, 2014, the same day as the Judge Waties Warning sculpture dedication.

This event is at full capacity but you can learn more about our Art of Healing series by signing up for our e-newsletter, following us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and checking our online calendar.

Thank you to Dr. Jeb Hallett who formulated the questions for Mr. Weaver and who will be moderating Tuesday night’s panel discussion. The Art of Healing is sponsored by Roper St. Francis.

Art of Healing, Understanding the Five Elements

Q&A with Lisa Dunlevy

AOH_march

 

Please explain the psychology of the five elements.

The Five Elements are stages of transformation: Water (birth), Wood (growth), Fire (ripening), Earth (harvest), and Metal (decay). They are different aspects of nature, as are we, and are known as “Wu Xing.” There are numerous parallels to each element including a corresponding season, climate, emotion, sound, smell, archetype, and even an organ.

For example, the wood element corresponds to springtime and the experience of walking outside, seeing the buds in the trees, and feeling hopeful. Watching the green sprouting from the ground, the trees, and vines is a visual experience and the element wood connects with having a vision, a plan, and a sense of creativity. Maybe you know someone with a lot of creative rising energy, or someone who lacks vision and doesn’t have a plan. This would be examples of how we are either gifted, or deficient in this element. All five elements are found within the individual, but there is one element that stands out and determines how we relate to the world.

How do you determine someone’s element?

When a new client calls me I listen to her/his voice. Then I also take into account what is ailing them, what part of the body is involved, are they frustrated with their condition, are they overwhelmed, have they waited a long time to call, or do they want to get this resolved immediately? When they are come into the office, do they move quickly, or slowly, what do they do for a living? These are all pieces to observe who that person is and to determine their constitutional element. Then we can move onto the virtues of each element, which helps with healing and becoming aligned with our purpose. The virtues of each element are Wisdom, Listening (water), Benevolence (wood), Partnership, and Truth (fire), Thoughtfulness and Support (earth), and Respect (metal). We aspire to have all of these, but one is most important to us. This part can also become taxed or imbalanced, and becoming our best selves and recognizing our natural talents can be very healing.

Can you explain what participants can expect from this workshop?

The class will consist of an introduction into the five element theory. We will also take a short quiz to evaluate which element we align with. Then we will either have a few volunteers share about their element, or gather in groups of each element. We will also have time to address questions, and then we will practice the Dance of The Phoenix Qi Gong practice.

What are the benefits of Qi Gong Practice? What does this type of movement involve?

Qi gong is a beautiful practice of moving our bodies to open the various meridians and bring harmony back to our bodies and mind.  It is best described as a moving meditation that uses our breath and bodily movements to open blocked meridians and support the flow of qi or energy.  It is a practice that helps us become more vital and calm, which is a beautiful combination.

Finally, how do you describe the connection between art and healing?

Learning about the five elements allows for healing as we recognize that we all have a unique gift or genius, that our challenges can also be our strengths and when we are aligned with our ‘dao’ we can find our purpose.

Join us to discover your element in Understanding the Five Elements with Lisa Dunlevy on Tuesday, March 3 from 5:30-7:30pm.

Location: Hazel Parker Community Center, 70 East Bay Street

$35 Members, $45 Non-Members

A Magical Mystery Tour of the Gibbes, by Elizabeth Gumb

Where the Gibbes is going, and where the Gibbes has been, certainly isn’t a mystery, but the amount of planning, creating, and excitement that has gone into Society 1858’s Winter 2015 party has been, frankly, magic. By “magic,” I mean, it’s amazing how easily things have fallen into place for this party. The generosity and involvement of our local vendors, venues, artists, sponsors, and patrons have really been the driving force behind this party (and of course, Lasley Steever, Director of Programs & Events at the Gibbes Museum)!

Magical Mystery Tour

I couldn’t be more excited or honored to co-chair, along with Kristin Romness, the first “off-campus” party! For the last four years our annual winter party has been held inside the museum, but due to the renovations, we’ve had to look elsewhere for a venue. While it has been overwhelming at times knowing that we were responsible for pulling off this unique event at another space, it has also allowed us to be as creative as we possibly could. For example, we were able to toy with different themes, formality, and ideas depending on which venue we decided upon, and the Woolfe Street Playhouse could not be more perfect for this British mod-pop Beatles party. Think psychedelic colors, swinging 60s set-up, and anglophile style. Beats by DJ Jeff will spin throughout the night for the ultimate dance party.  Guests will love the appropriately themed eats by Tristan and drinks by Striped Pig Distillery and Westbrook Brewery. But of course in true Gibbes style, we will have a few tricks up our sleeves as well.

Studio 54, MCG Photography

A party scene from last year’s winter party, Studio 54, MCG Photography

This is a party with a purpose because proceeds go to support the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art, which is open to artists from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, or Virginia and includes a $10,000 cash price for an artist whose work contributes to a new understanding of art in the South. That’s why we are so excited to offer guests the chance to win a piece by one of the following contemporary southern artists: Charles Ailstock, Brian Coleman, John Duckworth, Richard Hagerty, Christopher Holt, Robert Lange, Megan Lange, Hirona Matsuda, Andrew Smock, Kate Long Stevenson, Lulie Wallace, John Westmark, and Ben Gately Williams. I have both of my fingers crossed for winning! Prices start at $15!

The fourth-annual party is sure to be a groovy gig, so I hope you get your tickets before it sells out!

58 Winter Party: The Magical Mystery Tour
Friday, February 20, 8-11pm
$70 Society 1858 Members, $95 Non Society 1858 Members
$130 Ticket, plus an Individual Membership for the Gibbes Museum and Society 1858 ($10 Discount)
Location: Woolfe Street Playhouse, 34 Woolfe Street

Elizabeth Gumb

Elizabeth Gumb, Co-Chair Magical Mystery Tour and Society 1858 Board Member

 

 

 

 

Art To Go Teachers Inspiring Young Minds!

Arts education provides students with a sense of personal worth and fosters an appreciation for creativity and innovation. Education specialists across the county agree that effective arts education promotes self-directed learning, sharpens critical thinking skills, develops self- awareness, improves school attendance, and encourages positive behavior! These are just a few of the reasons we have developed education outreach programs like Art to Go. Working in partnership with Charleston County School District Title I schools, Art to Go combines art making and instruction through experiences with real works of art. Gibbes Teaching Artists work with art teachers in six schools on a specific project or to complement their curriculum. Each year Art to Go collaborates with the Charleston Marathon, which benefits the Youth Endowment for the Arts. Completed projects were on display at the Marathon Expo in January.

Art To Go Project

Art To Go Project from Mitchell Elementary. Teaching Artist Leonora Dechtiar

Each year the Art to Go grows in strength and numbers! We asked each of the four art teachers to share a few words with us about their experience in the classroom.  Sally Collins, a long time Gibbes teaching artist, was not available for an interview, but you can see her student’s work pictured below.

Art To Go

Art To Go Project From Pinehurst Elementary, Teaching Artist Sally Collins

Q. How many years have you been involved in Art to Go and how do you decide on your project each year?

Kristen: This was my third year working with Art to Go. Each year I try to plan a project that is inclusive to all ages, while also using different art forms and mediums. This year we created a large paper mache Angel Oak tree sculpture. This was the first time many of the students had created such a large work, used paper mache, and made a sculpture. The students took pride in the assembly of the tree and helped each other apply the wet sheets of paper around our wire frame to build the tree. Fourth and fifth graders tied and cut out leaves, work that required a lot of patience and detail. Each week the classes would come in to check the tree’s progress to see it go from a wire frame to a wet paper mache base to a fully painted trunk to then being full of branches and leaves.

Art To Go

Art To Go from Angel Oak Elementary, Teaching Artist Kristen Solecki

Leonora:

I have been involved in Art to Go twice, once in 2012 and again this year. I decided on the concept for the projects based on what grades I’d be working with, what materials were available, and what the kids would benefit from. For example, the first year we created a clay mosaic because I had access to a kiln for firing the clay. This year, we also made a mural but instead we used a mix of different materials, such as paper, paint, aluminum foil, and model magic clay. I made sure to use materials the students normally didn’t work with or worked with rarely, so that they could learn something new.

Hannah:

This was my first year with the program!  I researched different ideas, and met with my teachers a few weeks before class to discuss what their thoughts were.  The projects ended up being collaborative ideas between what we thought would be really fun, but also informative.

Q. Tell me about your student’s experiences with art. What do you hope they walk away with or remember about creating art?

Kristen:

From my experience it seems that art class is one of the opportunities  that students look forward to most. It is the opportunity to learn new mediums, work with your hands, and a place where all skill levels are welcome because uniqueness is encouraged.

Leonora:

I think what my students remember the most from their experience is the joy of using materials they have never used and exploring those materials with a sense of excitement and curiosity. I think it’s special for them to have a guest come in to their art room and this excitement carries over to their art making. I think art is primarily about having fun and expressing one’s creativity, and if we achieved that, I think that’s the most important goal. The other thing my students took away from it was an exposure to the Gibbes Museum and their connection to the history and art of Charleston, which is so important for them.

Hannah:

I hope that they hold on to the feeling that comes with creating something that you’re really proud of.

Q: How do you think art enhances education?

Kristen:

Art enhances education in countless ways. Through these projects I can see first-hand how art teaches not only new skills and techniques for making art, but also how to work as a team, problem solve, and be creative.

Leonora:

Art, unlike many other subjects, gives the children an opportunity to use their hands and develop their fine motor skills, which is important to have in any future career. Also, art gives children an opportunity to expand and practice using their creativity and imagination. Without creativity, I don’t think you could be a good scientist. Also, art gives students a chance to relax, have fun, and unwind from a day that may be filled with stress. I noticed that when the kids worked with clay in the art room, they were relaxed when molding the clay. I think art has a therapeutic effect in children and can relieve stress, which allows them to focus more on other subjects.

Hannah:

Art helps people express themselves in a way that’s different than other educational activities. Instead of writing something down, or acting something out, kids are given the opportunity to physically create something that’s completely their own.  That’s an accomplishment in itself, and I think it helps build a sense of confidence and self-worth.

Arttogo_blog2

Bios:

Kristen Solecki is an illustrator and art educator that uses paint and ink to translate stories and moments using strong changeable line work and bold color.  She has created work for publications such as Taproot Magazine, Uppercase Magazine, Skirt Magazine, the television show, Mad Men, as well as for galleries and shops across the U.S. You can see her work at www.kristensolecki.com

Leonora Dechtiar has her BFA in Illustration from Maine College of Art and her Masters of Arts in Teaching from Savannah College of Art and Design. She studied art for a semester in  Spain, where she developed a deep appreciation for art history. She loves illustrating for children, and  has published with Studio 9, Inc., which publishes educational materials and coloring books for children. After getting her certificate in art education, Leonora has worked as an art teacher at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, SC for two years. She also spent a year and a half in Beijing, China teaching art at an international Montessori school.

Hannah Durant grew up in Alexandria, VA and went to college at Elon University. After she graduated, she moved back to Virginia to get a “real” job and quickly realized that wasn’t her path.  Hannah has spent the last two years in Charleston, SC working with creative businesses in different capacities, and building on her interests.

Sally Collins holds a Commercial Art Degree, Bachelor of Social Science Degree, and Master in Teaching (MIT) Degree. She has previously taught Art, English, and 4th grade at the First Baptist School in Mt. Pleasant,  1st and 3rd grade at Midland Park Elementary in Charleston County as well as Art at Trident Academy in Mt. Pleasant. She has served as a Gibbes Teaching Artist for over 5 years with experience in summer camp, after school classes as well as Art to Go.

Unlocking the Secrets of Jeremiah Theus with Colonial Williamsburg Conservator Shelley Svoboda

The passage of time, layers of grime, discoloration, and improper restoration efforts can all hide the true grandeur of an artist’s original work. When this happens, art museums and private collectors alike turn to professional conservators to return a painting to its original glory. The conservation process not only restores a painting to a displayable condition, but when done properly, it also provides clues to an artist’s individual techniques.

At last week’s Insider Art Series event, Colonial Williamsburg Paintings Conservator, Shelley Svoboda, shared her recent experiences in the conservation of paintings by eighteenth century Charleston artist Jeremiah Theus (1716-1774). Among the earliest artists painting in Colonial America, Theus, a native of Switzerland, arrived in Charleston in 1735 as a fully trained painter. He is best known for his portrait paintings and seems to have enjoyed a good deal of success painting Charlestonians in his vibrant Baroque style. Svoboda’s talk inspired new appreciation for this early American artist and encouraged audience members to look closely at the physical aspects of a painting from the canvas and stretcher frame to the artist’s distinct brushwork, impasto, and layering of paint colors.

Highlighting examples from Colonial Williamsburg and the Gibbes permanent collections, Svoboda discussed challenges conservationists face when working with centuries old paintings and demonstrated the techniques used to uncover the artist’s true hand. For example, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s 2012 acquisition of the painting, Portrait of Elizabeth Allen Deas by Jeremiah Theus, added to that institution’s existing portraits by the artist creating a small, yet informative set of works representative of the artist’s oeuvre. However, major treatment was required on the new acquisition, involving careful removal of overpaint from the entire background to once again reveal the artist’s long-lost original.

In the conservation lab Svoboda used ultraviolet light to discern areas of heavy overpaint, and infrared photography and a surgical microscope to see the artist’s working technique. Once the overpaint was removed a layer of heavy grime was revealed, and preserved beneath the grime was the original painted surface ready to be revealed.

Conservation of Jeremiah Theus painting

Conservation of Jeremiah Theus painting

Before, Jeremiah Theus conservation

(Before conservation)
Portrait of Elizabeth Allen Deas (Mrs. John Deas), 1759, attributed to Jeremiah Theus

 

After Conservation

After Conservation efforts

The Gibbes is one of the largest repositories of Theus’s work with twenty-two paintings by the artist in its holdings. During her visit Svoboda had the opportunity to review four of the Gibbes Theus paintings including the companion portraits of Charlestonians William and Mary Mazyck painted by Theus in the 1770s. 

These paintings were moved to Canada by family descendants after the Civil War and were returned to Charleston in the 1980s as a gift to the Gibbes collection. Never before exhibited, Svoboda considers these paintings true treasures as they remarkably retain much of their original paint surfaces. Both are in need of cleaning and stabilization to remove the dirt, grime, and other signs of age that have drained the works of their original vibrancy. With professional conservation these paintings, like that of Elizabeth Allen Deas, could be returned to their original glory.

Shelley reviewing Jeremiah Theus paintings from the Gibbes permanent collection

Shelley reviewing Jeremiah Theus paintings from the Gibbes permanent collection

This spring the Gibbes will launch an Adopt a Painting program in order to raise funds for the conservation of paintings that will be featured in the new installation of the permanent collection. Stay tuned for more exciting conservation news!
Sara Arnold, Curator of Collections

Image credits:

Portrait of Elizabeth Allen Deas (Mrs. John Deas), 1759, attributed to Jeremiah Theus

Images courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

Here today, gone tomorrow (or over six months): How we moved out of the Gibbes! (Part II)

phase 3 empty gallery

Empty galleries…finally!

September 2014

The final phase of art packing involved the relocation of the Gibbes nationally-acclaimed collection of over 600 miniature portraits to secure storage at The Charleston Museum. While the miniatures comprise the smallest works in the art collection, planning to transport them just a few short miles up Meeting Street was the most complex of all the art movement. These fragile works on ivory require specialized handling and tightly-controlled climatic conditions at all times; movement had to be smooth and almost completely vibration-free. Once again, our skilled Museum staff and a crew of expert fine art movers accomplished this task. Looking back, it seems we definitely saved the most stressful of the moves for last! If you drop by The Charleston Museum (TMC) this month, several of our miniatures are on display; we can’t thank our colleagues at TMC enough for taking such excellent care of our miniature collection, one of the best in the United States!

miniature drawer

Fragile miniature portraits were the last collection to leave the building

October 2014

When the last piece of art left the building, you might assume collections staff could finally relax, right? Never.  Managing logistics for Insider Art Series exhibitions, preparation for conservation of artwork now five hours away,  attending to a steady stream of loan requests to borrow permanent collection objects packed away, and working with our curators on the many details surrounding reinstallation of the permanent collection now fill our days (and sometimes nights.) No rest for the weary. We also had one final project to manage before our work at 135 Meeting Street could be considered complete: consolidate, pack, move, and store all of the “stuff” that staff wanted to keep for when we re-open. Tables, chairs, exhibition furniture, storage cabinets, art supplies, store inventory, heavy machinery, the kitchen sink…..all head to be dealt with and moved out.  So we did that too; it was hard and tiring and not all that interesting to write about so I’ll skip the details. Once that last piece of our massive move puzzle had fallen into place, we did what Gibbes staff has been talking about for years-celebrated with a roller skating party in our Main Gallery!

 

roller skating

GMA staff on wheels (Zinnia, second from right)

 

Stay tuned for updates on our current and future collection/move activities. We may be working in an office for the time being but the artwork and exhibitions are always on our minds. We’ll make sure you, our supporters and friends, remain part of all the activity and our exciting future!

 

Zinnia Willits, Director of Collections Administration

Here today, gone tomorrow (or over six months): How we moved out of the Gibbes! (Part I)

Here today, gone tomorrow (or over six months): How we moved out of the Gibbes!

The Gibbes Museum of Art closed its doors in August in preparation for a major renovation and expansion. Given the nature of the construction project, it was necessary to empty the building of all its contents….people, office equipment, artwork, exhibition furniture, museum store inventory; everything that was not part of the building structure had to go. Museum staff was tasked with moving over 10,000 pieces of artwork and over 100 years of accumulated “stuff” out of the building over a six-month period. Our small, efficient, energetic staff has proven time and again that we can rise to a challenge and accomplish tasks, but this move project gave us all a moment of pause….and then we got over it and went to work! We accomplished our goal and today the Gibbes is an empty shell ready to be restored to its former glory, but how did we do it??? While I have been known to hold audiences captive for a long time talking about this move project, I realize this is a blog, and will try to convey our process in manageable sections (Part I and part II) rather than looking at the whole elephant!

April 2014

Planning for the collection move began several years ago and involved the coordination of art handling crews, fine art transit companies, and multiple storage locations. As the Director of Collections Administration, my first task was to find over 3,000 square feet of museum-quality space to store the entire art collection. Unfortunately, that does not exist in South Carolina. The closest commercial fine art storage with that amount of available, climate-controlled, secure space is in Orlando, Florida, which we decided was too far away. Instead, I pursued partnerships with our friends, The Charleston Museum, The South Carolina State Museum, and the High Museum of Art in Atlanta to store portions of our permanent collection during construction. We are pleased to be working with colleagues and strengthening relationships. Transport Consultants International assisted with the complicated logistics of this move.

print storage room packing

Packing works on paper took place behind-the-scenes in our print storage room

In order to keep the museum open as long as possible, removal of the art collection occurred in four phases. We started the process of packing and moving the collection in April 2014. During the first phase a crew of professional contract art handlers wrapped the museum’s collection of 4000+ works-on-paper and approximately 100 pieces of sculpture. All packing activities took place behind-the-scenes and the museum remained open to the public with little disruption. The images below do very little to convey the volume of material that was wrapped, nor the tight quarters in which the project took place, but you get a general sense of how it was done. The excellent art handling crew that worked with Gibbes staff knocked out this first phase of packing in just ten short (actually really LONG) days. These collections were shipped to The South Carolina State Museum in Columbia in May and are currently enjoying secure, climate-controlled storage under the supervision of the professional staff at the State Museum.

June 2014

Looking back at the whirlwind that was June 2014, it’s hard to believe how much activity took place and that we made it through those 30 days positive and still speaking to one another! The month began with the dreaded office move as museum staff changed operations from 135 Meeting Street to our temporary home in the Franke Building at 171 Church Street. As with any move there was the stress of packing boxes, uprooting comfortable work spaces, considering relocation of files and file cabinets, working out technology issues, planning for the logistics of the actual move, unpacking the boxes, getting used to new offices and work space, and the unsettling feeling of being disconnected from the collection and exhibits. It was a tough few weeks, but we persevered and learned to adjust to the new normal of working in an office building. Well most of us adjusted; I think those of us in collections and curatorial still find it particularly difficult to be away from the art. Meanwhile, back at the museum (which was still open to the public) I was moving forward with phase 2 of packing the collection. Just one week after the office move, the art handling crew returned to pack over 500 paintings and several large sculptures over another two-week period. The Garden and Balcony galleries were closed and set up as packing stations to provide the ample space required. Museum visitors were able to observe the packing process while still enjoying exhibitions in the Main and Rotunda galleries.  I definitely lived a double life in June running (literally) between the new offices at 171 Church Street and the art packing project at 135 Meeting.

phase 2 storage

Painting Storage beginning to empty out.

July 2014

With July came a small respite. Packed paintings were shipped to their temporary home at the High Museum of Art Collections Storage Facility in Atlanta, Georgia. Greg Jenkins and I made the trek to Atlanta (the first of many) to assist with movement of our collections off the trucks and into the storage facility. The capable staff at the High was wonderful to work with and our paintings are stored alongside many treasures from the High’s permanent collection. The remainder of July was spent preparing for the next phase of packing and final closure of the Museum. We also received word that the Gibbes was awarded a Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections Grant  in the amount of $250,000 to improve storage conditions for the museum’s collections. Grant funds will be used to purchase high-quality storage furniture for the renovated collections suite. This exciting news was a great boost for Gibbes staff after a grueling summer of moving.

August 2014

On to August. Time for an end of summer vacation perhaps?? Forget about it! August was crunch time for Gibbes collection staff as the third, and most multifaceted phase of collection packing got under way.  The art handling team (with the addition of a crating specialist) returned once again to pack oversize paintings and all objects on view in The Charleston Story.  This process took place over a three-week period. Crews worked behind-the-scenes to crate oversize paintings in storage until the Museum finally closed to the public.  Once the doors were shut we spread out into the galleries to pack artworks on view for long-term storage. Many of these paintings were large and required sturdy travel crates; the Museum had over 70 high-quality crates constructed by US Art Company to protect our finest works during transit and storage. In the end, four tractor-trailers loaded with all remaining artwork were sent to the High storage facility in early September. Our hallowed halls were finally empty….almost.

Stay tuned for Part II next week!

 

phase 3 crating large painting

Packing a large painting in storage

 

Zinnia Willits, Director of Collections Administration

The Gibbes and The Giving Tree

The Gibbes Museum of Art recently entered a new phase in its 156 year history when it closed its doors to staff, loyal patrons, and visitors. I think that I can safely speak on behalf of the entire staff when I say that this period for us has been mixed with a little sadness, a bit of trepidation, but mostly, great excitement and enthusiasm. In 2011, I joined the Gibbes as a grant writer, and for the past three years, I have had the pleasure of submitting many applications sharing the Gibbes vision of the future. We are now finally in the countdown to a new, vibrant artistic center that will successfully blend the process of art creation with art exhibition. The Gibbes’ amazing collection of more than 10,000 works of art will finally be showcased in a place worthy of its high caliber pieces of art. Charleston has received accolades and high-rankings for so many of its achievements including restaurants, hospitality, and overall character, so it seems only fitting that this city house a world-class museum building.

But today, my purpose is not to share what has been written countless times about the future of the Gibbes but, rather, to simply thank all who have been part of this journey up to this point and to invite others to join us. Suffice it to say this journey has been the collective vision of many who come from all different walks of life. Yet they all share the common belief and passion that the Gibbes be rejuvenated and restored.

I am reminded of one of my favorite books to share with my children at this time of year – The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this year!). The story is a simple tale of a boy and a tree, and the tree gives all that it has to the boy in a lifetime because it loves the boy.  At the end of the story, the boy (now an old man) ponders his life and considers how he has been blessed by the tree.  A certain sadness remains in the fact that the tree is left only as a stump.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

I believe there are parallels to this story and how we give and take in the world around us. The Gibbes Museum is like the “Giving Tree” because it is a place that continually gives to its visitors, patrons, and the community. Like the leaves and the branches, every piece of art tells a different story, and every person who walks through the museum doors has a different story to share. The Gibbes visual narratives can only be shared over and over throughout history as long as there is place that can house these great works. In three years, we have achieved $10,500,000 towards the renovation project. This is no small feat, and, again, could not be done without you. We are nearing the finish line as we strive to reach our goal of $13,400,000.  Thank you so very much for helping us to reach this point, and I ask you to stay the course with us and see this journey through. At this time of year, please consider a gift to the Gibbes Museum of Art that has blessed us and will continue to bless us with its many activities and programs. Let us not leave our museum as a “stump” but allow it to grow and flourish like the beautiful tree at the start of the story.

For year-end donations, please contact me, Jennifer Ross, director of development at 843.722.2706 X16 or via email at jross@gibbesmuseum.org.

I leave you with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt, “Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.”

I wish you a healthy, happy, holiday season!

Jen Ross, Director of Development

Art of Healing Presents: Flower Power

Our December Art of Healing program presents Flower Power with floral design experts Gretchen Cuddy of Gretchen Cuddy Floral Designs, and Clara Varga-Gonzales of Tiger Lily Florists. Flowers have a powerful impact on the senses and can communicate a variety of sentiments. Gretchen and Clara were kind enough to answer questions about their philosophy of floral design in preparation for this event. Learn more from this talented duo on how horticulture enhances health and healing with moderator Dr. Jeb Hallett on December 10 at 6pm. The Thomas Bennett House will be decorated for the holidays—join us for this festive affair!

Thomas Bennett House

The Thomas Bennett House decorated for the holidays

Tell me about your background with floral design. When did you begin working with flowers and how has your work evolved over the years?

(Gretchen) My floral background started in college when I took a watercolor painting class, I would often create floral still life arrangements for the class to paint. Color combinations and the use of varied greenery and unique vases was a big part of the process. The use of texture and the contrast of natural elements in an arrangement have always interested me; it makes the final creation less expected to the viewer’s eye. Over the years, I have spent quite a bit of time working with florals for churches and sacred spaces. Presently, I create arrangements for numerous events in Charleston and love to use local plant materials to evoke a relationship with the beautiful Lowcountry.

(Clara) I started working with flowers 18 years ago. My husband and I bought Tiger Lily florist in 1996. Weddings are always evolving depending on what the style is at the time. Our goal has always been to have big bright flowers in arrangements. American send much fewer flowers than Europeans do. It’s just not our tradition as much as it is overseas to have flowers on a daily basis. Therefore it’s very important for us to carry flowers that have a long vase life so that the consumer feels like they received a good value.

Flowers by Tiger Lilly

Flowers by Tiger Lilly

What is it about working with flowers that is healing for you?

(Gretchen) I find that when I am working with flowers I can allow myself to be as creative as possible. It is almost like an out of body experience for me at times, and is better than any therapy. I can completely forget my troubles and transport myself into another world where the beauty of an arrangement gives me the greatest joy. It is self-healing in a way that is very personal.

(Clara) I think working with flowers in the flower shop is a different dynamic then working with flowers at home. When I work with flowers at home it’s more relaxing for me because there’s not the stress of getting it right for the client or making sure that the flowers are the correct shade or variety. There also isn’t the pressure of time constraints and delivery complications as far as transportation.

What are your favorite flowers to work with? Are there some types of flowers that are your least favorite?

(Gretchen) My favorite flowers to work with are sunflowers. I love the contrast of the yellow petals against the dark brown center. I almost always have a bouquet of them in my kitchen….they just make me smile. My least favorite flowers that I honestly cannot use are the ones that have been artificially dyed. It is simply a violation of nature and denies the flower its true color and beauty.

(Clara) My favorite flower to work with has always been tulips. I had tulips at my wedding and I enjoy them so much because they don’t need a lot of design and they continue to grow even after they are cut. Peonies remind me of my father, but they are not always available. My least favorite flowers have always been the more common ones such as statice and Alstromeria, although I do like daisies and carnations.

Describe your creative process. Do you begin with a color or type of flower in mind? Or is more about a client’s preference?

(Gretchen) My creative process to begin an arrangement consists of several variables, namely the season, the style of the event, the budget. From there, I select the vase or container to compliment the overall design, and then work to define the line and scale of the arrangement. I love going BIG with arrangements and I always remind myself to try and keep that in check as sometimes a smaller arrangement is really what is needed. In the end, I personally have to be satisfied with the final product before I can part with it.

(Clara) If the choice is up to me I prefer to work with 5 to 7 different types of flowers, each with different texture and shapes. I’ll lay them all out in front of me and then create the arrangement in my mind based on the shapes and sizes that I have to work with.

Gretchen Cuddy flowers

Flowers by Gretchen Cuddy Designs

Why do we give flowers to people for happy and sad occasions? Weddings and funerals?

(Gretchen) The gift of flowers to someone shows that you care. It also shows that you are not afraid to live in the moment, because as we all know, flowers do not last forever, so an arrangement of flowers allows one to stop if only for a moment to appreciate the beauty that flowers bring no matter what the occasion, happy or sad.

(Clara) Studies show that living with flowers strengthens our feelings of compassion and decreases our anxiety and worry. I think that especially for funerals it’s important for families to receive flowers in their home. They spend a lot of time in their homes after a loved one has passed, and it can have a positive impact on their mood. When we do flowers for a wedding it’s almost as if once the flowers have been delivered and the reception and churches are set, that’s when the festivities can begin. My brides have always realized the implication of what’s about to happen once the flowers have arrived. That’s when they start crying. There’s some sort positive energy that comes from flowers and live plants!

Art of Healing: Flower Power

Wednesday, December 10, 6pm

 $20 Members, $30 Non Members

Location: Thomas Bennett House, 69 Barre Street

To purchase tickets, please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events or call 843.722.2706 x21

Roper logoSponsored by Roper St. Francis Foundation

Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager

Building the Gibbes Gator

Gibbes Gator Mascot

Gibbes Gator Mascot, designed by Erin Banks

Art education for children is a fundamental component of the Gibbes Museum of Art. Throughout the year we offer a variety of programs to students of all ages in school and at locations throughout the tri county area. When we reopen in the spring of 2016, the first floor of the museum will be dedicated to classroom space for children and adults. A year ago, Rebecca Sailor, curator of education, introduced the idea of creating a museum mascot. Rebecca felt it was important to have a visual symbol of the museum that could engage and interact with children and families inside and outside of the museum. We began brainstorming with Erin Banks, our graphic designer, and came up with the concept for the Gibbes Gator. We launched the Gator in our summer camp brochure and have been using him on all marketing materials related to children’s programming. Our next step was to reach out to Charleston County School of the Arts visual arts teacher Marie Nichols to ask if her students would be interested in bringing our Gator to life. We wanted a life sized gator who could interact with children at events and eventually, in the museum during school tours, classes, and camp sessions. Marie immediately said yes, and recommended sophomore costume design student Julia Dotson. We met with Julia in September and she agreed to take on the project of building our mascot. We spoke to Julia recently and asked her to give us a glimpse into this exciting project.

When did you become interested in creating art? Or, when did you realize you had a talent for art?

Well, I have been creating ever since I could remember. One of the first toys that my mom ever gave me was a plain black marker and one of those ginormous packs of computer paper. And even when I was small, I remember accumulating inspiration from PBS shows that had something to do with creating, even if it was something like Bob the Builder or a tutorial on how to make Aladdin’s magic carpet out of strips of paper. And I guess I realized I was entirely infatuated with creation was when I decided to try out for the School of the Arts and finally took art lessons— besides the ones offered by the South Carolina public school system. But I never realized that I had a talent until someone like the Gibbes Museum came to ask for a commission!

How long have you been a student at SOA?

I have now attended School of the Arts since the sixth grade, which would be over four years.

Costume design is a new major at SOA, can you tell me more about this major and what it entails? Do you see this as something you will continue to pursue at the college level?

Currently, each costume design student is learning the foundations of sewing and garment making, such as learning to sew a zipper or the daunting, yet exhilarating task of pattern making. And as the year goes by, I believe that we will learn more comprehensive things, for instance, making an entire garment from pattern to embellishments (which sounds easy, but is actually a very difficult task).

The field of costume design currently is one the interests that I have in mind for a college major, my choice, however, still weighs between this, fashion design, and the fine arts.

Gibbes Gator

Gibbes Gator designed by Julia

What was your reaction when we presented the Gibbes Gator project to you? Did this project seem overwhelming?

I was initially honored and trilled to make something for the only art museum in all of Charleston. This is a place I went when I was just six years old and gazed at monumental paintings. And at the time I was offered the commission, it did not appear to be overwhelming, but when I actually started to work on the project I realized that I’d underestimated the amount of attention one costume needs. The actual carving of the foam for each body part proved not as the most troublesome, but actually finding the materials turned out to be the most difficult part. I wanted to capture the ‘chummy’ quality of the drawing that I was presented with (designed by Erin Banks, Gibbes graphic designer), and found that faux lime green upholstery alligator leather would not do the job. After about a month of searching for the perfect, child-friendly material, I finally found the perfect pea green corduroy.

This is something that you are working on outside of school, how are you finding the time?

I genuinely enjoy sitting at home with Edith Piaf music or the television show Twin Peaks in the background while I attempt to create an alligator out of foam and green corduroy pants!

Julia at work on the Gibbes Gator

Julia at work on the Gibbes Gator

Tell me about the process of designing the Gibbes Gator.

Like most of my sculptures ‘Gibbes the Gator’ consists of paper mache and malleable fabric, but this is my first experience carving foam, which I found not as pleasurable as sculpting strips of paper together. But as a mentioned before, trying to find green corduroy in Charleston was a very difficult thing!

The smock that makes up approximately half of the note garment is just a thin canvas material that is standard for most artist smocks. That’s why I wanted to keep the entire garment to a certain style, which was The Wind in the Willows. I first saw this production in California, and was inspired by Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (hence the abundant use of corduroy). This led to the look I wanted for the Gator, which is almost like a man magically made into an alligator that can sing and dance. It’s as if the whole world is a musical!

What has been the most rewarding and the most frustrating aspects of this project?

To be honest, the most exasperating part of this project was finding the materials, and then having to redesign over and over again to accommodate for abilities and resources that were available. Yet, the idea that I am making an entire costume that other people will enjoy is a catalyst to keep working to finish this protracted task!

We are so grateful to the School of the Arts and to Julia for agreeing to take on this challenge! If you are interested in donating to this project, please visit Rally.org or contact Rebecca Sailor at 722.2706 x41 or rsailor@gibbesmuseum.org.

Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager

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